We all know the importance of keeping mentally fit. Maintaining our cognitive skills allows us to enjoy greater concentration, better problem-solving, and a host of other benefits. But did you know that focusing on this aspect of our health is especially important as we grow older? Brain exercises for seniors are a way for you (or a home health aide) to help keep your loved one sharp. In fact, when combined with other healthcare measures, it may even help prevent or delay dementia.
What parts of the brain need a workout?
Cognition includes the ability to perform many different mental tasks, including perceiving people and events accurately, recalling facts, and finding creative solutions to problems. In essence, cognition is what lets us take information from our environment and turn it into something our brains can use.
That’s why, when doing brain exercises like you would any other workout routine, it’s important to know what you and your loved one’s goals are. Mental exercises can offer great returns in areas such as processing, reasoning, memory, and more. The more you use the parts of the brain that control these skills, the sharper they’ll stay – and for longer.
Build up the brain with these exercises
Talk it out
One brain activity that many people often overlook is fairly simple – it just involves talking! Engaging in meaningful conversation with friends, family members, and professional caregivers let your loved one enjoy the benefits of social interaction. But moreover, the give-and-take of these exchanges can stimulate brain function.
Change it up
Another surprising cognitive exercise is a bit unusual but surprisingly effective: change up your loved one’s routine; this can be as simple as having them put on their shoes in reverse order or use their non-dominant hand for a task. Try it yourself – it can be challenging at first, but also a lot of fun!
If your loved enjoys arts and crafts, this is a great way to perk up their brain. The hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills that crafts call for provide the perfect cognitive workout. There are even ways to tailor crafts to your loved one’s level of ability, physical limitations, and even their attention span. Consider the following crafty options for an older adult:
- Making decorations
- Molding clay figures
Get your game on
Games and puzzles are a superb way to keep your loved one’s brain active and alert. And just like crafts, they can be customized to suit the individual’s abilities. There are many different games and puzzles that have been modified for those with physical limitations. Examples include large print puzzles books, oversized puzzle pieces, and extra large and thick playing cards.
Consider these fun brain teasers:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Crossword puzzles
- Word searches
- Card games
Pick appropriate brain exercises for seniors
Always pair brain exercises to your loved one’s ability, temperament, and, of course, their personal interests. For instance, someone who has very poor vision (even with an assistive device) is likely not the best candidate for card games. However, they may be perfect for crossword puzzles providing another person is there to ask the questions, fill out the puzzle, and count the spaces. Likewise, if your loved one has no patience for crossword puzzles, but enjoys trivia games, take that into consideration. Any brain exercises that they help pick out and genuinely enjoy increases the odds they’ll stick with them.
Start keeping your loved one’s brain healthy today!
While many older adults never experience a cognitive decline, for others, the effect of the aging process on mental faculties is more pronounced. The sooner you start helping your loved one maintain their brain health, the sooner you can both see the benefits – or delay the start of symptoms related to poor cognition. Don’t forget – the brain needs exercise just like the body in order to stay strong and let us do all that we want to do!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.